Stratospheric Broadband

Led, by the University of York and funded by the EU’s Framework 6 R&D programmes, the CAPANINA project seeks to energise the development of high-alititude platforms (HAPs) for wireless broadband. For the uninitiated, HAPs are essentially tethered balloons and airships that provide broadband coverage across large urban and rural areas; an airborne rival to WiMAX and 3G if you will, but also potentially bridging the gap between satellite and terrestrial wireless broadband.

CAPANINA PosterThe first results of the programme were recently shared by the University at a week-long conference in York. CAPANINA aims to develop networks speeds of up to 120Mbit/s and could theoretically address many of the limiting factors of the UK’s digital infrastructure, such as the distribution of HDTV over DSL and cable networks. However, like WiMAX and 3G, it’s likely that only operators and incumbents can make the neccessary investments to capitalise on such invention…and other than BT, they’re not likely to make large scale infrastructural investments after the 3G implosion.

Though HAP technologies are at an early stage of development, it’s nevertheless gratifying to see that where London is near-term hub of internet innovation and commerce, there are other parts of the country that are placing long bets on emerging technologies and academic partnership.

There’s a CAPANINA primer presentation (4.2mb Powerpoint) available from the project site – it’s worth a read :)